Ajit Kumar Jha
In sharp contrast to the Gujarat tornado, where the BJP crushed the Opposition, the Congress Party won Himachal decisively defeating the incumbent BJP. Led by Priyanka Gandhi, Pratibha Singh (the widow of six-time former CM, the late Virbhadra Singh) and the local Himachal Congress leaders, the GOP romped home with a victory in the hill state.
Despite the less than one per cent vote share difference between the winner Congress (43.9 per cent) and the loser BJP (43 per cent), thanks to the Cube Law at work in a first-past-the-post simple majority electoral system, the Congress ended up winning 40 seats out of 68 in contrast to the BJP’s 25 seats. Three seats were won by Independents (read BJP rebels).
Congress’s victory in Himachal is decisive given that the Grand Old Party (GOP) won the state sans Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and the entire senior Congress leadership (all busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra). The BJP’s top leadership, deeply divided and riven with factions, lived under the same illusion. But the ire of the Himachal voters booted the incumbent out of power despite a blitzkreig campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President JP Nadda, Cabinet Minister Anurag Thakur and others.
The palpable anger among large section of voters: apple growers, those whose land was acquired by the state Government for road construction without adequate compensation, those who suffered due to the scrapping of the old pension scheme (Congress promised the revival of the old pension scheme), led the voters to the 40-year old Himachali Hill tradition of defeating the incumbent and switching the winner.
Although the BJP Chief Minister Jairam Thakur won his Seraj seat with a respectable margin of 38,183 votes, nine of his 12 Cabinet ministers lost their seats given rebel BJPs queering the pitch for the saffron party. Given the decisive nature of the Congress victory in Himachal, the BJP cannot snatch victory from the jaws of defeat via defections.
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